How the workplace is changing
The modern workplace is markedly different then the one which many of today’s managers began their careers. Business leaders have recognized the value of flatter, more collaborative organizational structures. A 2012 CEB survey discovered that 60% of employees work on a day-to-day basis on tasks that require coordinated efforts with 10 or more people, and most of these people also work with employees from different units and from different supervisory levels.
The benefits of fostering a collaborative modern workplace
When an organization develops a culture of collaboration, it encourages all stakeholders to work together toward shared goals and objectives. This joint effort produces faster and more sustainable results with less effort. Were a collaboration skills checklist developed from the findings of the CEB survey, it would include skills that recognize that collaboration has a huge effect on:
- Innovation and creativity
- Employee retention
- Knowledge and skills sharing
The challenges of the collaborative work environment
To access these benefits, an organization’s strategic planning should also recognize the challenges that collaboration engenders. Individuals may feel intimidated and confused by the inherent need to shoulder responsibility. Some employees will find it difficult to place trust in others.
An organization will also need to consider how to communicate in the collaborative environment. Traditional communicative channels will no longer be enough to sustain and grow productivity. The integration of employees across different silos and geographies, and from different backgrounds, will require a more progressive communication policy to both disseminate information and influence behaviors.
Finally, collaboration will break down traditional working practices. Instead of concentrating on a single project or task, employees will be required to fulfill multiple roles across multiple tasks. This utilizes individual skills and experience to best effect, but managers may find that those individuals inadvertently revert to old practices.
A collaboration skills checklist to face challenges and access benefits
Facing these challenges and maximizing the benefits of collaboration is not easy. Planning strategy in a systematic way is key, and this is where the collaboration skills checklist proves its advantage. Here are four elements that should be on your checklist:
1. Enable the sharing of skills
Know the strengths and weaknesses of your employees, and provide ways for people to benefit from others’ strengths. For example, if someone is good on the technical side but poor at presentation and another good at explaining ideas and processes, when a customer meeting is planned find ways to help the two employees work together.
2. Encourage cross fertilization of ideas and creativity
When people from different backgrounds and with different skillsets and experiences come together, the result can be positively explosive. Make certain that team meetings are open and honest, and that people are encouraged to put forward ideas, views, and that the merits of all are discussed without bias.
3. Provide access to skills training
In the collaborative work environment people are able to gain experience and skills faster. Help people to assess the skills they need to improve on a personal and professional level, and enable improvement by providing access to essential training.
4. Invest in communication skills training for leaders
Leaders need to learn new ways of communicating with their people. Persuasion and influencing skills need to be honed, as well as conflict resolution techniques (care-fronting rather than confronting).
5. Provide motivation for personal growth
The collaborative organization is naturally flatter in structure, without the traditional routes for career advancement. Seek ways that will help to motivate people to always work at peak performance levels by instigating incentives on a team and individual basis.
It takes time, money, and leadership to overcome the challenges of collaboration and access the benefits. Contact Forward Focus today and discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp, and coaching in Consulting and Facilitating, will help your organization take advantage of the modern, collaborative workplace.